PRIME Institute, in collaboration with Friedrich Naumann Foundation and National Youth Assembly, has held a Street Vendor Assembly in Shahi Bagh Area of Peshawar. Zafar Ullah Khan, President of Rehri Baan Association in Peshawar, organized the participation of a large number of stall holders and cart pushers in the assembly. Purpose of the assembly was to create awareness among street vendors about the lacunas in-country laws that exacerbate their economic plight. Faiz Muhammad, President of Sarhad Chamber of Commerce, was the Chief Guest at the event.
Zia Banday, Executive Director of PRIME, elaborated on the economic aspects of street vending. He mentioned that this low economic segment is much resilient in survival against all odds, which has emerged due to uneven imposition of rule of law. It is impacting the earning capacity of the street vendors, who are the victims of state apathy and at the mercy of different mafias. Street vendors are playing a very important role in serving as a distribution channel for taking the goods of cottage and small businesses to the low and middle income groups. Mostly street vendors are from low skilled and rural migrant segments. They are a vital cog in an urban economy, which needs to be taken into account for any city planning.
Ahmed Bashir, a Senior Lawyer and a Research Fellow, said that street vendors are heart of Peshawar’s economy. And yet, Street vending and provision of services escapes attention despite it being the primary means of combating poverty and of economic survival for many inhabitants of the city. Importance of street vendors as service providers is immense, however, all the laws concerning them are for controlling their economic activity and there are hardly any workable provisions for facilitating them and to improve their working conditions and general betterment.
Zafar Ullah Khan highlighted the plight of street vendors in Peshawar. He did mention the lack of protection to street vendors and their continuous fear of being uprooted from their place of business. He demanded the government to provide them amenities for operating in the newly constructed Bachat Bazar. Hanan Ali Abbasi, President of National Youth Assembly, has reiterated the engagement of youth in supporting the cause of street vendors for improved rights and enhanced livelihood.
In his concluding remarks, Faiz Muhammad, President of Sarhad Chamber, has informed the audience about the commitment of business community in helping the street vendors and taking their voice to higher echelons of the government. Business community is even ready to allocate their own money for easing the water problems of street vendors.
In a question & answer session, various street vendors did talk about the humiliation they have to undergo at the hands of police and other city agencies. They feel powerless and despite paying bribes, they remain insecure and fearful owing to uncertainty in their tenure. They demanded the issuance of health cards and education facilities for street vendors and their families. PRIME Institute did announce constituting of a working group that will comprise of elected representatives, street vendors and civil society to lobby government for improving upon the legal structure for the street vendors.